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'Any more division is sad': Methodists react to possible split over LGBT inclusion

People attend a worship service at First United Methodist Church in Little Rock (KATV)
People attend a worship service at First United Methodist Church in Little Rock (KATV)
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The United Methodist Church is divided so deeply on LGBTQ inclusion, they're considering splitting down the middle.

After almost 50 years of disagreement, 16 church leaders have come up with one solution. The protocol—if passed--would split the church into two separate denominations. One would allow same-sex marriage and practicing LGBTQ Clergy.

"I don't think the calling of the Christian church universal is to be a divided body,” Pastor David Freeman said. “Any more division is sad."

Freeman is a pastor at First United Methodist Church in downtown Little Rock. He said his congregation wants change.

“This church wants to be able to perform weddings for the LGBTQ members and their families," Freeman said.

But there are Methodists in Arkansas who believe that would be wrong.

"We believe there is truth revealed in scripture, and we believe we are not in a position to change that truth,” said Jeff Warrick, president of the Arkansas Chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association.

Warrick said if the church splits, he’ll go with the traditionalist side.

"I honestly think that the best thing forward is to find separation," he said.

This clash has been difficult for LGBTQ members like Kathy Webb.

"It doesn't make you feel good when people say your life is incompatible with Christianity,” Webb said. “I disagree very strongly with that. And it's painful."

Webb grew up a pastor’s daughter. She said being a Methodist is like part of her DNA.

"I’ve had a lot of people come up to me after we've worked together for a while, who've said. ‘I judged you in the beginning, and I’m really sorry,’" Webb said.

Webb said she's optimistic about getting full inclusion one day, but she said it may take a split to get there.

"I’m a hopeful person,” she said. “And not very easy to give up on things."

Warrick said the thought of parting ways causes grief. But he said there’s hope that each denomination could do as they see fit.

"I love them enough to hope they can go and create the denomination that they're wanting to serve in," he said.

There are more than 600 United Methodist churches in Arkansas--full of people with varying world views.

"By the end, almost everyone is going to have to make a decision for themselves what's important to them,” Warrick said.

The leaders behind the proposal to split the church are still working out the details of their plan.

If the proposal keeps its momentum, delegates from around the world will take a vote in May at the church's general conference.

There are 20 delegates from Arkansas.

Bishop Gary E. Mueller, with the Arkansas United Methodist Conference, released the following statement regarding the potential split:

“There is deep division in our church. The “Protocol” is but one of several proposals that will be considered by our Global General Conference in May to create new expressions of Methodism. No decision has yet been made, and no one can predict with certainty what the outcome will be. In the meantime, I pray that United Methodists will demonstrate how Jesus’ love enables us to treat each other with respect and compassion.”

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